Monday, March 19, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/18/12

Just so there's no confusion or awkwardness about the punchline, let me say it from the start--this scripture contains a joke. When you understand the cultural cues, it's actually a pretty funny joke. But that doesn't mean the point is not deathly serious.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012--Letter to the Presbytery

*As a means of staying connected with folks across the Presbytery in my capacity as Moderator this year, I plan to regularly post “letters” to the Presbytery.  Your responses are not only welcomed but encouraged via phone, email, letter, and Facebook! 

March 15, 2012

Dear Friends,
As we gathered for Sunday School at the Ronceverte Church this past week, someone asked our elder commissioner how Saturday’s Presbytery meeting went?  She said, “Good…bad…and good.”  I think that sums it up fairly. 
The morning hours featured a powerful worship service and an educational training session.  “Good!”  After lunch there was a period of significant debate surrounding three Committee on Ministry (COM) recommendations, relating to a few churches who are leaving the denomination. “Bad.”  Finally, we heard good news from the pews and an inspiring testimonial on Bluestone.  “Good!”  (By the way, this was the first time we tried the new meeting format approved overwhelmingly in December by the Presbytery based on the Jeremiah 29:11 report, which worked very well!)
But I admit that the afternoon controversy captured much of my attention.  I woke up at 4:30am Sunday morning troubled, not by the debate itself, but by its tenor.  My soul ached as the debate replayed in my head.  Ached. 
Throughout this week, I’ve wondered: Where do we go from here?  As much as I would like for the entire family to be united in our relationship with Christ despite our theological differences, the chances for our family to remain fully together right now seem slim.  A few churches will probably petition the Presbytery to leave under the policy we adopted in December. 
If those few churches do so, for goodness sake, let’s conduct ourselves honorably and gracefully.  Let’s treat each other with the dignity we all deserve as children of God and members of the Christian family.  For the sake of tender believers.  For the sake of our children.  For God’s sake, since this is God’s church, not ours. 
Presbytery of West Virginia, I implore you to join me in prayer for our Presbytery as Paul instructs the church in Colossae (Col. 1:11-12):  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Please also know that our Presbytery leadership is prayerfully acting in response to last weekend’s meeting.  I’ve been in touch with the Chair of the Committee on Ministry, the Interim Executive Presbyter, the Acting Stated Clerk, and the Chair of Council.  We all are working to ensure that the Presbytery learns from the past so that we are better prepared for the future. 
May God bless you, your family, your church, and your Presbytery of West Virginia. 

Grace & peace,

Rev. Stephen Baldwin, Moderator of the PWV

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/11/12

There’s a big debate in the church at-large today about how we should and should not behave like a business.  Villanova University’s School of Business even has a center for the Study of Church Management. On one hand, the church is like a business in many ways.  We have employees and budgets and legal liability, right?  We have to maintain the building and run websites and advertise programs.  But…on the other hand, we aren’t selling a product and we could care less about making a profit.  We are a church, not a business.  For me, the biggest difference between being the church and being in business is evident in today’s Scripture.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Morning Worship, 3/4/12

If I asked you who was in your family, who would make the list?  Blood relatives?  Your parents and your children, your brothers and your sisters, your cousins?  Would it stop there, or would you continue, with your dog and your cat, your best friend, maybe your pastor, the person who is sitting to your left or your right at church?  Would it stop there, or would you continue, with people of deep faiths other than your own—Jews and Muslims who sought do the will of God?


Morning Worship, 2/26/12

The spirit and letter of the law don't always match. We know that from everyday life. Have you ever been forced to break the letter of the law in order to comply with its spirit?  Have you ever had to speed following an ambulance to the hospital?  Or lie to protect the truth?  Have you ever had to get away from church to find God?